Newcastle rock'n'roller Mark Tinson on how to make a living out of a love

If you’re a young performer looking to carve out a life-long career in the cut-throat music industry, listen up. 

Mark Tinson has been there, done that and has the starry-eyed yarns from yesteryear to prove it.

A Maitland boy, Tinson made his name at the forefront of a golden era of Newcastle live music, the likes of which is unlikely to ever be seen again. 

For more than 50 years music has paid the bills for Tinson, with his distinguished career including stints as a song writer and performer for bands such as Rabbit, Heroes, Tex Pistols and Swanee, as well as a music teacher and producer. 

It’s a lifetime of musical experience chronicled in his book Too Much Rock’N’Roll: A Life in Music, which he launched last week.

In it Tinson details his burgeoning love with rock’n’roll as a Maitland student, his early performances at Tenambit discoes and forays with his school band, Bluegrass.

Don’t do it for fame or fortune, do it because you love the music

Mark Tinson on pursuing a career in music

He then moves on to the heady formative days of the Newcastle music scene, his role in a number of iconic Hunter bands, and even the night of the infamous Star Hotel riot, where his band the Heroes were on stage when cops shut the venue down.

“We flew by the seats of our pants,” Tinson reminisced on those times.

“It was a great time to be making music. There were so many live music venues in those days...there were gigs around Newcastle every night of the week.”

While Newcastle now doesn’t enjoy the glut of supportive live music venues it once had, Tinson still had some sage advice for young musos wanting to “make it”. 

“To be a pro musician, you need a lot of arrows in your quiver,” he starts.  

He shares two bits of key advice: if you’re a pro musician, part of your income stream will be teaching; adding that if you’re going to pursue it, it do it for the right reasons. 

“Don’t do it for fame or fortune, do it because you love the music,” he said. 

Despite the demise of live music and the rise of the DJ, the wizened songwriter disagrees that young players have to leave the Hunter to “make it”. 

“It’s an exciting time for the truly creative who have a good work ethic,” he said.  

“You don’t necessarily have to go to Sydney to make it – I think that’s a big bluff.

“I’ve toured across all of Australia, been to Louisiana 10 times – but it’s Newcastle I keep coming back to.”